Sellswords: Olympus Review - By Level 99 Games
Quick Glance: Sellswords: Olympus by Level 99 Games
Game Type: Abstract strategy…but with a theme
Number of Players: 2
Mechanics: Tile placement, Drafting
Introduction/Overview: Level 99 Games have carved themselves a rather interesting niche in the hobby. While they release games of all sorts of themes, sizes, and complexity, I think their best games are their 2-player only fighting games. They have several (Battle Con, Exceed, Pixel Tactics etc.) that are all quite good. Sellswords is a bit different in that it’s not a street fighting type game. Sellswords: Olympus is closer to an abstract strategy game along the lines of Othello. It keeps many of the other hallmarks of this line: fast play, charming graphics, and lots of interesting decisions.
Gameplay: Sellswords: Olympus takes place in two rounds, with a scoring round at halftime. The deck of 50 double-sided square cards is shuffled and 7 are dealt to the table. Players then take turns drafting 3 of those cards, the 7th is discarded. This process is repeated so that both players start with a hand of 6 cards. A terrain card is then placed in the center of the table as a starting point (these terrain cards also have certain rules to help make the game more interesting). Players take turns playing the cards they drafted onto the board. Each card played must be adjacent to a card already on the board. The only other placement rule is that all cards must be confined to a 5x5 grid. This keeps things from spreading out crazily, and forces interaction on almost every play.
If a character card is placed next to another character already on the board, they “battle”. Each character card has values printed on all four sides of the card. If your character’s value is higher than the one already on the board, you flip the defeated character to your color side, they just joined your army! It’s seriously that simple. Every card also has an action printed. Some of them occur right when they are played, others happen only at specific times…it seems a bit overwhelming, but most of them only happen once, and the iconography is quite clear.
After each player has played all 6 of their cards, scoring takes place. Each row and column is scored separately. Each player scores points for the number of cards of their color in each row or column. If you only have 1 card in a column, you don’t get any points. If you control all 5 spaces in a row or column, you can score 7 points!
This entire process (drafting twice, playing cards, and scoring) happens one more time. Whichever player has the most points at the end wins. If there happens to be a tie, whoever went first in the second round is declared the winner.
Rulebook: The rulebook is a poster. I don’t like poster rulebooks. They are unwieldy, and much like a road map…kids, ask your parents, they are sometimes a pain to get folded back correctly. Still, the rules are written clearly (save for a couple of unfortunate typos). I do like that the back of the poster has a guide of every character in the game.
Theme: It’s pretty generic. The game is an abstract, so you could pretty much throw any theme on this and it wouldn’t affect the game at all. In fact, Sellswords: Olympus is actually a stand-alone expansion to the original Sellswords game. They can be played together- doubling the number of characters and possible actions, which is nice.
Set-Up/Takedown: Shuffle the cards and go.
Components: I love the cards. They are big and square and satisfying to hold. The only downside to this is that you do have to flip the cards over a lot, and as they are played in a grid, it’s easy to kind of screw up the placement of everything. I don’t know if there are sleeves this size, but I’d recommend either sleeving this game, or playing on a large playmat/tablecloth.
The game has a 16-bit video game aesthetic which is quite pleasing.
Solo-Play: Nope. I could see how a robot player might work.
Final Thoughts: This is a neat little game that has flown way under the radar. It’s not hard to play, but has a ton of strategy. If you spend much time playing 2-player games, you owe it to yourself to give either of the Sellswords games a try.